Demographic Strategy – Work in Progress?
Annual Conference of the German Society for Demography (DGD) from 12-14 March 2014 in Berlin
Prof. Tilman Mayer on the Question of the Effectiveness of Demographic PolicyTilman Mayer, welcomed the Demographic Strategy which has been initiated by the Federal Government, whilst at the same time pointing out that there was a need for a critical assessment of the demands and reality of the demographic policy measures. He enquired as to the fields in which demographic policy was able to exert any influence at all. He considered these to include the field of migration, since it was possible to place emphasis on that, and there was certainly a margin of appreciation there. Also when it came to the topic of ageing, there was a demographic opportunity, albeit policy makers could only act here in an advisory capacity by placing political emphasis, for instance by maintaining the medical care system or setting health policies. With regard to fertility, agreement had been reached that direct intervention in generative conduct was not acceptable. Whilst there was a lot that could be done here, Prof. Mayer noted that the impact on fertility depended on a large number of circumstances.
It was ultimately a matter primarily of discussing two dilemmatic conflicts in greater detail, that is the question of whether the maintenance of the productivity of a society (that is the economy) or the maintenance of a population (demography) was more important. The two options clashed in modern societies and led to a push to make decisions in the "rush hour of life".
It should therefore be mentioned here all in all that, in addition to the transformation of the energy system (Energiewende) a demographic transformation is also needed aiming to overcome the fertility weakness in Germany, and to reach a more balanced ratio between immigration and births. In order to do so, demographic policy would have to be enhanced and the contract between the generations re-thought, summed up Prof. Mayer.
Dr. Günter Krings: Development of the Demographic Strategy an Important GoalIn his welcoming address to the annual conference, the Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of the Interior, Dr. Günter Krings, observed on this topic that the foci of the Demographic Strategy would be refined and the working party process continued. Against the background of demographic change, the goal was to improve the requirements for good care and ensure that there were equal levels of development in urban and rural areas.
At the same time, he pointed out that a procedure by the name of "demography check" was already being set up to assess legislative projects and guidelines in terms of their significance for future generations. Additionally, science took on particular significance in the context of the Demographic Strategy, as was shown by the excellent work of the Federal Institute for Population Research, which was established in 1973.
BiB Researchers on the Trail of Demographic Change
How diverse and topically differentiated demographic research has become was shown by the many lectures on the individual topical foci, to which researchers of the BiB also contributed. Their work is to be introduced here in brief:
Dr. Lenore Sauer, Andreas Ette and Barbara Heß on the Question: Will Labour Immigrants Stay in Germany?
Michael Mühlichen on Regional Mortality Differences in the Baltic Sea AreaIn the session on ageing and productivity, Michael Mühlichen from the BiB addressed regional mortality differences in the German Baltic Sea region. Against the background of unequal regional mortality rates in Germany, he took the example of the Northeasternmost Federal Land Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, where life expectancy is relatively short, to seek causes for the differences in mortality – including a direct comparison with the neighbouring Land Schleswig-Holstein.
He showed here that the mortality rates in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania have fallen considerably since reunification. The mortality rates among men in the urban districts in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania are now at the same level as in the urban districts of Schleswig-Holstein, and are actually lower among women. Mortality was however still comparatively much higher in the rural districts of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. Since the mortality differences particularly related to cardiovascular diseases, in addition to socioeconomic factors, especially the poorer medical infrastructure in the rural regions of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania constituted a major cause of the differences between urban and rural areas.
Dr. Andreas Mergenthaler, Dr. Volker Cihlar, Frank Micheel and Jakob Schröber on the Potential of Older People in Working LifeMergenthaler, Dr. V. Cihlar, F. Micheel and J. Schröber compiled results from a topical survey of the BiB on the potential of 55- to 70-year-olds for productive activities, and in doing so identified the requirements and influences. According to Dr. Mergenthaler, the results showed that primarily factors such as state of health, evaluation of the financial situation, convictions of being in control and career were highly significant for the inclination to work in retirement. In addition to these "positive" potentials, it however also became clear that the inclination to work in old age was influenced by a precarious situation on the labour market or by subjective shortcomings in material prosperity. He summed up that such "negative" potential could be countered by activities in labour policy.
Praise and Encouragement for Young Researchers
In addition to many informative and challenging lectures, the conference was used this year too as an encouragement and a platform to reward young researchers for their innovative demographic research work, together with Allianz SE. Five young researchers received the "Allianz prize for young researchers specialising in demography" in the Allianz Forum, and at the same time heard encouraging words from Prof. Volker Deville, the demography expert at Allianz, as well as from Prof. Gabriele Doblhammer, demographer at the University of Rostock, Stefan Müller, Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, and Prof. Sonja Haug, DGD Vice-President. Prof. Deville stressed the importance of the unreserved research carried out by young researchers in the shaping of the much-quoted demographic change.Awards were given to two doctoral theses and two masters' theses. Dr. Wiebke Rösler of the Humboldt University in Berlin was given a main prize in the doctoral thesis category for her work on "Structural change and fertility – How women's higher vocational training influences the birth rate. Quantitative analyses of the second demographic transition for Germany over time", in which she investigates the causes of the particularly low German birth rate.
Stephanie Zylla of the University of Rostock received a prize for her masters' thesis entitled "The process of the retirement of foreign and native citizens in Germany – A comparative analysis using the research data of statutory pensions insurance". Her work aimed to comparatively observe the influencing factors in the decision of foreigners and Germans to retire, the question being focussed on ways in which the retirement processes of foreigners and Germans might differ from one another.
Diane Regnier and Marc Battenfeld (both from the University of Siegen) received the special prize for application-orientated demography for their thesis entitled "Of opportunities and risks: The impact of demographic change on the social infrastructure in rural areas using Maifeld local authority association as an example". In this, they studied the impact of demographic change on facilities of social infrastructure of Maifeld local authority association in a timeline reaching up to 2030.
A prize was also awarded to the dissertation of Dr. Philipp Deschermeier (University of Mannheim), which dealt with the topic "The development of the population and persons in gainful employment in the Rhine-Neckar metropolitan region". His work aims to formulate as well as to apply new approaches and to refine existing ones, to empirical regional research using the Rhine-Neckar metropolitan region as an example, against the background of demographic change.
Decisive factors for the evaluation of the work were firstly the specialist quality, and secondly the societal relevance of the topics.
Josef Schmid, Dr. Steffen Maretzke (Federal Institute for Research on Building, Urban Affairs and Spatial Development (BBSR), Bonn), Prof. Clemens Tesch-Römer (German Centre of Gerontology, Berlin), as well as Prof. Martin Werding (Ruhr University of Bochum) discussed fundamental questions of demographic development. Firstly, it primarily became clear, as Prof. Tesch-Römer stressed, that demographic change was not a threat of which we need to be scared. There is also no frequently invoked dividing line between the old and young generations. The line was, rather, within the generations, as he stressed.
Demographic Change is not a Threat